The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

Tag: 1946 Page 1 of 2

“Please, Mister!”

In my hand, I could feel its tiny little spickles of claws tickling.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, April 6, 1946.

“What’s that?” interrupted Jimmie Frise.

“It’s a cat,” I informed him.

“I thought you disliked cats,” said Jim.

“I certainly do,” I stated. “Of all the creepy, sly, cruel…”

“Well, what’s a cat doing in your house?” demanded Jim.

“It’s not in the house,” I assured him. “It’s out in the side alley.” We listened. A cat meowed.

“That’s in the house!” insisted Jim.

“No, it’s out in the side drive,” I said easily. “No cat would ever get into this house. Nobody’d let it in. Cats know I hate them. I don’t think a cat has ever been in my house.”

“It’s a lifelong prejudice, eh?” said Jim.

“Maybe there’s some psychological mixup in my feeling about cats,” I mused. “But ever since I can remember, I’ve had a creepy feeling about cats. I have no sympathy for them at all. No feeling, except one of deep repugnance. Lots of my friends and relatives have cats. But I’m so uncomfortable with a cat in the room, everybody I know always sends the cat out when I’m expected.”

“What a fussy old pot you are!” scoffed Jim.

“Look,” I demanded, “can I help how I feel about things? Am I responsible for what I feel? This feeling was born in me.”

“Haven’t you any free will?” inquired Jim. “Do you just go through life wearing all the hates and prejudices you were born with? Don’t you feel free to figure things out for yourself?”

“Some things, Jim,” I submitted, “are too deep in people’s natures to be extracted by mere thinking.” The cat meowed again.

“Darn that cat!” I said, getting up nervously, and rapping warningly on the window over the side drive.

“Mmmmm,” observed Jim, “you ARE a cat hater.”

“There may be some psychological basis for it,” I offered. “They tell me that when I was a small baby, we owned a white cat – a beautiful gorgeous snow-white tomcat. It was very fond of me and I was immensely fond of it, so they say. It used to sleep in my carriage, and when I began to walk, I used to carry the cat all over, sort of bent in the belly the way a baby carries a cat; and I used to hold it by the tail and otherwise abuse it. But it never protested. We were inseparable companions, so the story goes. Then one day, somebody poisoned my beautiful white cat. I was only about two years old and I don’t remember any of this. But it seems I found my lovely white cat stiff and dead at the foot of the garden. Nobody knows how long I tried to get the cat to wake up and play. At any rate, I came staggering into the kitchen carrying the stiff white cat in my arms. Doubtless there was a scene! Doubtless my mother screamed. Doubtless they snatched my poor white cat from me…”

“Nobody will ever know,” agreed Jimmie, “what happens to the mind, ideas and prejudices of a little child before he is able to think.”

“I have the feeling,” I declared, that the incident of my white cat has something to do with my lifelong abhorrence of cats. I bet half the blind prejudices in this world are based on some queer, incomprehensible happening in a child’s life, before he had the power to understand.”

The Boogie-Man Stories

“Maybe,” suggested Jimmie, “our hostility to Russians and their hostility to us – maybe our feeling about all foreigners, maybe the queer, insurmountable prejudice we feel against people of another color than ours…”

“Possibly all,” I agreed, “based on boogie-man stories we were told as little, scared children. The Russians tell boogie-man stories. So do we. So do all nations on earth. The quickest way to scare a little child into obedience is to tell him a boogie-man story.”

“To create a real good boogie-man,” I submitted, “you have to make him different in all respects from the people around the neighborhood. Thus, when we grow up, it never occurs to us that, perhaps, our worst enemies are people we see every day. We always suspect a foreigner.”

“The Russians,” agreed Jim,” probably have better boogie-men than any of us. For remember, all Russians 20 to 30 years of age now, were told stories in childhood about the fierce boogie-men all around them. They were hemmed in with boogie-men. It was the terrible British, German, American and French boogie-men who were trying to starve them to death, in 1926 to 1930. Remember? When a little Russian kid cried for more food, how did the mother explain it? Why, she told the little baby about the terrible boogie-men all over the world, who would have no truck or trade with Russia. Our prime minister, in those days Mr. Bennett, said: ‘No truck or trade with Russia.’ So did everybody else. All the world. We were busy, in those days, trying to cure Russia of her wicked ways. So when a Russian mother told the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk to her babies, she didn’t say:

‘Fee, fie, fo, fum,

I smell the blood

of an Englishmun!’

“She had the terrible giant say:

‘Fee, fie, fo, fum,

No truck or trade

With Russia!'”

“Jim,” I submitted, “you may have something there. When we grow up, we never look for boogie-men at home. We always look for them abroad. What we’ve got to do is look for boogie-men both at home and abroad.”

“Or else,” suggested Jim, “stop telling children boogie-men stories.”

“Ah, you can’t do that, Jim,” I sighed.

“You’ve got all the tired mothers of the world against you there. Children are unmanageable little brats. When the mother’s patience has reached its limits, there is nothing for her to do but scare the kids with a boogie-man story. It’s the same with the governing class in all nations. When they can’t manage the people any longer, they tell them boogie-man stories and scare them into behaving.”

“Meee-Ow!” said the cat.

“Hist!” hissed Jim.

“Meee-OW!” said the cat.

“By golly, Jim!” I cried, leaping up. “That cat IS in the house!”

“I told you so,” said Jim.

My hair began to prickle and stand on end.

“Listen!” I commanded. And in a moment in the silence, we both heard the long drawn “meeow” of a cat, right under our feet.

“It’s in the cellar!” I shouted, “Come on, get it out of there!”

We raced down cellar and I switched on the lights. Immediately, I saw what had happened. The coal men had left the cellar window open when they delivered the last ton.

“The window, Jim,” I pointed.

“Where’s the cat?” Jim asked.

“It probably went out when it heard me coming,” I said.

But it hadn’t. From under the work bench came a soft, meek, creepy, pewly-mewly little mew.

“Yahhh!” I shouted, seizing a furnace shovel.

“Mew!” said the cat, in that sweety, Itty-bitty style.

“Scat!” I roared, clattering the shovel on the concrete.

But the cat did not move. “Meeeee-ew?” it said, with that sneaky questioning tone a cat can adopt.

A Whole Batch

Jim was down peering under the work bench.

“Saaaayyy!” gloated Jimmie. “You’ve got a whole batch of cats. She’s made a nest here, in the basket…”

“Awfft!” I protested vehemently.

“Come and see them,” pleaded Jim. “Aw, look, the tiny darlings, they haven’t got their eyes open…”

“Get them out of there,” I cried. “Chuck them out the window, the way they came in…”

“What!” roared Jim. “Do you mean to say you’d throw these baby kittens out into the cold world… a mother, honoring your house by selecting it for her nest for these tiny innocent…?”

“Yah, some alley cat!” I grated, standing well back where I couldn’t see them. “Some alley cat, sneaking in my cellar window…”

Jim reached into the shadows and brought out, on the palm of his hand, a little fuzzy ball, not as big as an egg. I looked away. I looked back. The fuzzy ball lay perfectly still on Jim’s hand. Then I slowly stirred. It cuddled down into Jim’s cupped palm.

“Put it back!” I commanded. “I’ll take the basket out…”

“Now, just a minute,” asserted Jim firmly. “After all, these are somebody’s kittens. This is somebody’s cat. You’ve got no right to treat somebody’s cat…”

“Why don’t they look after their darn cat?” I demanded angrily.

“Maybe she was caught unawares,” pleaded Jim. “Maybe she is a young cat and these are her first babies and she didn’t know what to do when the magic hour came to her. Maybe she was locked out of her own home by accident. Maybe the family was at the movies. She had to find a nest and maybe she had to find it terribly soon. So she went frantically up and down the street, in all the side drives, hunting for a dry, warm place…”

I went over and looked stiffly down.

“And by heaven’s grace,” Jim continued, “she found your cellar window open, and she came in, breathing prayers of gratitude, and found this basket, with old clothes in it…”

I could make out the curled figure of the cat. Her head was turned down, as though she were murmuring to a baby. She looked up at me, with wide, surprised topaz eyes that caught the cellar light. She opened her mouth in a soundless “meow.”

“How many are there?” I demanded grimly.

Jim, with soothing sounds, pawed in around the cat. “Six,” he said.

“Let me see them,” I requested coldly.

Jim lifted the mother cat out on to the floor, and revealed a solid fluffy mass, about the size of a handful of feathers. As I watched, the mass slowly pulsated and seemed to move. Tiny paws and miniature legs reached out and shoved. I suppose everybody should see a cat when it is newborn. I knelt down.

The mother came and rubbed against my leg. Her tail, sticking straight up, almost brushed my chin.

“Scat!” I said, recoiling.

“Well, what are you going to do?” inquired Jim pleasantly,

“Will you take them, Jim?” I retorted. “You like cats.”

“We’ve got two cats already,” said Jim. “And Rusty.”

Rusty, who had been asleep upstairs, came down. He examined the cat and the kittens with discreet interest.

“I tell you what I’ll do,” I said, very practically. “I’ll take them around the neighborhood, in the basket. I’ll ask everybody around here, and somebody will surely know whose cat she is. And I will then present the rightful owner with his property.”

“And suppose you don’t find them?” asked Jim. “After all, cats stray far and wide.”

“Then,” I said, “in that case, I’ll do what sensible people have been doing from time Immemorial. I’ll drown the kittens in a pail of water and turn the cat out to find her way home.”

“I guess that’s practical,” agreed Jimmie. “Everybody drowns kittens. The best of people. Not cat haters. Cat lovers. They drown surplus kittens.”

“Okay, before it gets dark,” I said, “let’s go round the block.”

The cat got back in the basket and I carried her and her invisible babies upstairs while we got our coats on. Then we went out and started our calls. I asked all the kids of the neighborhood if they recognized the cat. Or course, they all wanted to see the kittens, and I had to keep taking the mother out and putting her back, while dozens of kids pleaded for me to give them one of the kittens. I had to explain that a kitten has to have its mother for a few weeks.

Several of the kids gave us wrong steers, and we called at houses completely round the block once. But nobody recognized the cat. And everybody thought the family scene was just adorable. One lady wanted to adopt the whole family on the spot.

“Give her the basket!” muttered Jim, urgently.

But I did not. After all, this cat was somebody’s property. It was my duty find the rightful owner. And anyway, the more you looked into that basket, the queerer you felt. After all these years…

When we had made one complete round of the block, I decided I had done my duty. We went back to my house and down into the cellar.

“Drown the Weakest First”

“Ah, well….” sighed Jimmie, philosophically. And he got a pall under the laundry tubs and I heard him running it full. I set the basket on the stairs and the mother got out and looked at me with that surprised topaz gaze. She rubbed against my leg. I gave her a cautious, slow stroke of my hand. Gosh, how soft! Not mushy. Soft!

I could hear her bubbling. Not purring.

Jim came back and set the pail before me. He picked up the basket, sorted over the kittens and picked one out.

“First the worst,” he said. “Second the same. Drown the weakest one first.”

In my hand, I could feel its tiny little spickles of claws tickling. It wobbled, it half stood up on Its front legs, then collapsed. Its eyes were tiny bluish bulges under its skin.

“Go ahead,” said Jim, picking out another one, and holding it ready in his palm.

The kitten on my hand started turning round and round, as if seeking something. Its little legs and paws pushed and strained. It fell on its ear, against my thumb. It was softer than anything I had ever felt.

“I wish…” I said a little hoarsely, “I wish it was white.”

“That’s the weakest one,” explained Jim. “It’s a poor specimen, just a runt. I say you drown the weakest first, eh?”

The mother cat, seeing the pail of water, got up on her hind legs and curled a tiny, pink tongue down into the water and lapped. I never saw anything so dainty as that wisp of tongue flicking…

“I could advertise,” I submitted. “I could advertise, and the owner would pay for the ad…”

“It would be a lot of trouble,” declared Jim.

“Well, anyway,” I concluded, putting the weakest kitten back in the ball of fur in the basket, “if I keep them a few weeks, just until they are old enough to give away, all I’d have to do would be to go over and stand in front of the school at 3.30, and it wouldn’t be two minutes before all six of them would have a good home…”

“How about taking them back,” asked Jim, “to that lady around the block who wanted to adopt the whole basketful?”

“Yeah,” I said, “and have her drown all but the one she wanted to keep!”

“Well, then,” said Jim, “in that case, you’d better go and get the mother a saucer of warm milk…”

Which we did.

And then Jim and I went back upstairs and continued our debate on the effects of boogie-men on the childhood of the world.


Editor’s Notes: This story may have upset a few people looking at it with modern eyes, but it was common in the past to kill unwanted kittens or puppies. There was no spaying or neutering, and no other way to control the population. I mentioned in a previous post that people did not worry about controlling pets (dogs and cats would be let loose outside to run wild). So drowning puppies or kittens was not considered a big deal, just practical.

Greg would mention the story of his cat when he was a toddler in the future as well, so I suspect it is true.

This is another example where I have the colour image, and you can see how much more expressive it is compared to the microfilmed copy at the end.

There were three lines where they discussed boogie-men in other countries that I have removed due to racist references that added nothing to the story. My thoughts about racism and stereotypes in Greg and Jim’s work are indicated here.

Thumbs Down!

March 9, 1946

The Unbelievers

February 9, 1946

The Weather Prophet

December 14, 1946

One Sure Thing

I felt two large hands seize me by the shoulders from behind. And, glancing back, I saw another very large and heavy stranger had Jimmie by the shoulders.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, October 19, 1946

“Your prejudices,” declared Jimmie Frise, “are costing you money!”

“I’m willing to pay,” I retorted, “for my principles.”

“Look,” pleaded Jim, “it’s a sure thing.”

“In this life,” I countered, “nothing is sure.”

“Aw, for Pete’s sake,” cried Jimmie. “I tell you we can pay for the winter’s coal with this race. It’s the end of the racing season. All kinds of long shots come home at the end of the racing season. It’s the time for trainers and jockeys and horse owners to balance the budget.”

“You mean,” I sneered, “that racing is crooked…!”

“No sport on earth is as rigidly policed as horse-racing,” replied Jim hotly. There’s a continent-wide organization that embraces every track and every breeder and every angle of the horse-racing game and it is devoted to keeping horse-racing on the level….”

“Okay,” I scoffed, “then how about these benefit races, for balancing the budget?”

“At the end of the season,” said Jim picking his words carefully, “there is a sort of devil-may-care spirit that enters the sport. Trainers who have been nursing their horses along, so as not to overtax them, allow them to go full out in one last fling. Jockeys who are cautious riders suddenly became inspired with the spirit of the end of the season and ride with an abandoned quality that upsets all the calculations of trainers, other jockeys and all the dopesters who do the adding up.”

“Adding up?” I inquired.

“Sure,” said Jim. “How do you suppose the experts pick the winners? Simply by adding up all the factors that go into the race; the condition and past performance of the horse; the trainer; and the jockey. But at the end of the season, all these factors are muddled up by this sort of last-fling spirit. Nobody knows what horse is going to win.”

“Nobody but you!” I laughed.

“More long shots come through this week,” insisted Jim, “than at any other season.”

“Because nobody can pick the winner,” I suggested.

“Exactly,” agreed Jim.

“Then how do you know you’ve got a sure thing?” I triumphed.

“This horse, Schnitzler,” stated Jim flatly, “has been running second and third all season. Why? Because his trainer has been ordering the jockeys to ride him easy and let him develop himself. No forcing. The trainer figures, from Schnitzler’s pedigree, that he is a horse that develops slowly but steadily instead of one of those flash performers that is all through before he’s four years old.”

To Balance the Budget

“It’s all Dutch to me,” I interrupted. “Jim, look. I just don’t care for racing. It’s like stamp collecting. Either you like it or you don’t like it.”

“Schnitzler,” said Jim slowly, “is going to win today in the fourth race. And it’s going to pay 30 to 1.”

“You mean.” I asked, “that for a $2 ticket, he’d pay $30?”

“For a $10 ticket,” said Jim in a low, vibrant voice, “he’d pay … THREE… HUNDRED … DOLLARS!”

“Aw, Jim,” I pleaded, trying to wake him from the trance, “how do you know? What facts have you got to justify this fixation that’s got you, like some sort of lunacy…?”

“I,” said Jim, still in that low intense voice, “know the trainer, I know the jockey and… I know the horse!”

“Ah,” I said, “so you’ve bet on him before?”

“I bet on him all through the season,” admitted Jim.

“But he always came second or third?” I inquired.

“And I always bet him on the nose,” said Jim.

“And you’re going to bet him today again, on his last race of the season?” I demanded.

“The budget,” said Jim with that faraway look that hypnotized race fans wear, “the budget is just about to be balanced.”

“Tomorrow maybe,” I sighed, “you’ll wake up. Ten or fifteen dollars poorer…”

“I’ll have the money,” said Jim, with certainty, “for the winter’s coal.”

All this was at 10 o’clock in the morning.

At 1 o’clock, Jim appeared at the office door with his hat on.

“Coming?” he said heartily.

“I…” I said.

It was a beautiful day. Too beautiful to sit alone in an office pecking at a typewriter.

“Well,” I chuckled, “I might as well go, if for no other reason than to watch the expression on your face as all these castles in the air come tumbling down…”

So we drove out to the track in the lovely Indian summer afternoon and once again I found myself in that completely alien atmosphere of the race-track, surrounded by thousands of people all concentrated on a sport that leaves me cold. I never feel so completely a stranger on this earth as at the race-track. Sometimes I feel all these thousands are queer. And then, suddenly, I feel a little queer myself.

We got into the grandstand where Jimmie seemed to know everybody by their first name. It was like a club. Very chummy. Full of a lingo of its own. I began to feel queer.

These race meetings are something like a symphony concert. Each race is like a number on the program. Each number builds up, like a symphony, to a familiar climax. The first race, there was the usual tuning up, as the horses were walked to the starting post. Then the intense gathering up of feelings and emotions as the horses prepared for the start. That would be like the fine string music of the symphony. Then, suddenly, like the brass and woodwinds of the orchestra letting loose, the start! Then a kind of gathering pandemonium, as the orchestra of these thousands of fans swelled and rose to a crescendo that ended as climactically and violently as a Beethoven symphony …

Jim’s horse lost. He also lost the second race, and the third.

He asked me to come under the grandstand for a cup of coffee and while we were drinking the coffee, he asked me if I had any money.

“I never bring money to a race-track, Jim,” I informed him. “You know that. I have my principles. And I safeguard them.”

“Haven’t you got even five bucks?” pleaded Jim.

“I haven’t got even five bucks,” I replied firmly, fondling the $10 in $1 bills I had in my left-hand pants pocket.

Jim looked desperately around.

Meant For a Killing

“Look here,” I said sternly, “didn’t you say this horse Schnitzel or whatever it is ran in the fourth race?”

“Yes,” gritted Jim. “And I want to put 10 bucks on him. But that last race, the brother of one of the jockeys gave me a hundred to one chance on that horse I bet …”

“I see,” I said, amused. “Sure things all over the place!”

“I was going to make enough to put maybe 30 or 40 bucks on Schnitzler,” pleaded Jim. “But now I’ve only got four bucks left. Do you see anybody you know that you could borrow a few bucks…”

“I certainly do not!” I stated sharply.

“Six bucks,” muttered Jim bitterly. “Six bucks, six measly bucks. Take a walk around and see if there’s anybody you …”

“My friends,” I stated, “are not to be found around race-tracks. Why don’t you make a touch on any one of those sportsmen surrounding you up in the grandstand? You call each other by your first names…”

“I…I…” said Jim anxiously.

We finished the coffee and walked out on to the lawn.

Jim was acting like an expectant father. He was breathing big deep breaths, biting his teeth together, putting his hands deep in his pockets and pulling them out again. He looked at his four dollars several times. And he kept his eyes on the clock. All around us, the eager swarms were reading their programs with fatuous expressions. Already the procession towards the betting enclosure had begun.

“Hello, Mr. Clark,” came a pleasant voice.

I turned and recognized one of my neighbors from up the street.

“Why, how do you do!” I replied heartily. “Are you a follower of the sport of kings?”

“Oh, I usually come out for a few races,” said my neighbor, whom I had always taken for a deacon at least.

Jimmie was gripping my elbow and squeezing it meaningfully. I shook my arm free.

“How have you done?” asked the neighbor.

“Oh, I don’t …” I began.

But Jimmie, linking his arm through mine to show we were buddies, broke in: “As a matter of fact,” he said, “my little friend here has been cleaned in the last three races. And he’s trying to borrow six bucks off me…”

“I am not!” I cut in indignantly, but Jim got a Judo hold on my funnybone that almost made me screech with pain.

“Six bucks is all he wants,” cried Jim jovially. “But one of my superstitions is, never lend money to the guy you came to the races with. It’s okay to borrow from anybody else. But NOT the guy you came with …”

“Why,” laughed my neighbor, reaching into his pocket.

“Not…” I began but again Jim, laughing jovially, gave my elbow such a horrible dig with his digits that I felt myself wilting And at the same instant, he reached out and took the $6 my neighbor was holding out, and stuffed them playfully, in my breast pocket.

“There you are! Come on,” he chuckled, “come on and let’s place the bet…”

And before the slightly puzzled gaze of my neighbor, he swung me around and started up the lawn.

At the same instant. I felt two large hands seize me by the shoulders from behind. And glancing back, I saw another very large and heavy stranger had Jimmie by the shoulders. And we were both being propelled forward at a rate that kept our feet trotting smartly to keep us from falling.

I struggled.

“Here, what the dickens are …” I shouted.

But the two of us, side by side, were hustled through the crowd, up the lawn, out the side entrance past the grandstand and towards the gate.

In the privacy of the entrance, the big men relaxed their shoving. I shook myself.

“Will you inform me,” I demanded, setting my hat back on straight, “will you inform me the meaning this outrage!”

“Okay, bud,” said my man, dusting his hands. “Okay, scram!”

The whole thing was incomprehensible, bewildering. Out-of-place though I feel at a race-track, this was too much.

“I’ll call the police!” I grated, readjusting my clothing.

“Heh, heh, heh,” said both the large men.

“Look,” said Jimmie, who was pale as Swiss cheese, “look, boys, you’re making a mistake. My friend was only …”

“Aw, stow it, bud,” said the one with the black hat, “now scram. We seen the whole transaction. We seen you approach the gent. We seen you pass the tip. We seen you accept the money …”

“Jim!” I commanded. “What is this all about?”

“These are the Pinkerton men,” explained Jim pleasantly. “They watch out for touts and hangers-on. They have mistaken us for touts…”

“Heh, heh, heh,” agreed the two large men, preparing to shove us right out the gate. “If we ever saw a tout, this little guy is the champeen. Come on now! OUT!”

“Too Late”

And before I could even go of my own volition, the big fellow in the brown hat took me by the back of the coat collar and the pocket and fingered the 10 one-dollar bills I had there.

Jim followed.

And the two large men walked businesslike back into the grounds.

“But the race, the race!” suddenly yelled Jimmie, snatching the $6 from my breast pocket and adding it feverishly to his $4. “We’ve got to get this on the race …”

“Jim,” I ordered loudly, “I came here as an innocent spectator. I have been treated to every indignity…”

A bugle blew.

“Too late, too late!” moaned Jimmie, leaning against the fence, a broken man.

We stood there. We heard the silence fall. The slow, muttering silence. Then we heard the wild horse roar … “They’re off!” Then we listened to the rising symphony of the roaring grandstands. Then a mad cheer.

Out the gates poured the little dribble of people who always quits after the fourth, or fifth, or sixth race.

“Who won?” croaked Jimmie, seizing one of them by the lapels.

“A horse named Schnitzler,” said the passer-by disgustedly. “Paid 30 to 1.”

Jim crumpled beside the fence and sat, huddled, counting the $10 in his hands.

I ran my left hand cautiously into my pants pocket and fingered the 10 one-dollar bills I had there.

“Okay, Jim,” I croaked too. “Let’s go and get the car and go home.”


Editor’s Notes: As noted before, Jim was the gambler of the two, who would participate in activities like attending the race track and pool halls that Greg would not. Greg was more of a follower of his Victorian upbringing. Jim was hoping for enough money to pay for all of his coal needed for a coal furnace for the upcoming winter.

Touts at race tracks were people who offered racing tips for a share of any resulting winnings.

Pinkerton men were a generic definition for private detectives. In this case they would have been hired by the race track to root out undesirables.

Down and Under!

September 7, 1946

This is the Life!

July 6, 1946

Synthetic Porkies

By Greg Clark, May 4, 1946

“Pull up here!” commanded Jimmie Frise, his leg already swung overboard from the open car.

“There’s much better fishing,” I protested, as I slowed, “about half a mile farther down.”

“Here’s the place,” announced Jim, excitedly, and he was grabbing for his fly rod to set it up.

“If we park here,” I muttered, “we’ll block the trail.”

“Last season, just about this time of year,” cried Jim, pointing up his rod, “I took five trout of over a pound each. And I must have lost 20. Twenty good ones.”

I backed and forwarded the little touring car until it was hinched well up against the side of the woods road.

Right below us, the beautiful river flowed in all its early May glory. The floods had long since passed, the river was getting down to normal. Its color was not too clear. It was just right.

Where Jimmie had ordered us to halt, an ideal trout-fishing stretch of water hastened and paused, boiled and simmered, for a length of maybe 300 yards. There were shallow, swift bouldery passages, where the water tumbled and raged amid boulders the size of a piano. Then there were pools, where the water rested and whirled, the white foam making that tactical shade under which big trout love to hide.

Jim jointed up his rod with trembling hands. He fastened on his reel. Threaded his fat fly line up through the guides. Linked on a nine-foot leader to which he had already tied a good big streamer fly, a badger streamer with crimson body.

And before I had my rod out of its case, Jim was sliding down the bank towards the stream.

Before I had my line threaded through the guides, he was hip deep in the bouldery section.

And just as I was tying on a Clark’s Ghost – a fly of my own design, a streamer made of silvery gray feathers and silver body – I heard a muffled shout above the low roar of the river. And there was Jim, leaning back picturesquely, his nine-foot rod bent in a gorgeous arc, and a big trout rolling and threshing in the fast shallow water 40 feet down stream from him alongside one of the foaming boulders.

I leaned my rod against the car, seized my landing net and skidded down the bank.

It is hard to any which is the more delightful experience in trout-fishing: to catch a trout yourself, or to sit in a grandstand seat on the river bank and watch a friend catch one.

At first thought, you are inclined to favor catching the trout yourself. There are not many experiences in life to equal it. But they are impossible to remember. You are too excited to remember. In my lifetime, I have caught more than my share of trout. But when I try to recapture the picture in memory of any of the greatest fights, the picture eludes me. It begins, all right, with me at the business end of the rod. But almost imperceptibly, the moving picture of my memory begins to slip and fade; and it is my wife or Jim or old Skipper Howard I see in memory, making one of the epic captures I have witnessed.

The First For 1946

Jim stood with feet braced, his rod arched high, his left hand drawing in line as the trout gave ground. You don’t wind your reel while fighting a trout with a fly rod. You draw the line in and give it out, the slack falling into the boiling water at your feet. The trout was a 16-incher – a good pound and a half. With the current helping it, it would take runs down stream that almost stripped off the 90 feet of line Jim had on his reel. Then it would rest; and Jim, with arched rod, would persuade it up through eddies and slack stretches.

But in the end, the trout’s greatest advantage, the swift current, becomes its deadly enemy.

I saw its orange-edged white belly flash more often, as it rolled in the slashing current. Finally, Jim was able to draw it a good 30 feet without much resistance. And in another minute, he had it within 20 feet of him. I waded into a quiet spot. Jim led it skilfully over towards me. I sank the landing net in the pool. Jim drew the trout over the net. I lifted.

And there was trout Number One for 1946 – pound and a half, sleek, fat, lithe, brightly colored, it’s tiny red spots margined with iridescent blue, its white snow-white, its orange margins smoked with black. Surely the most beautiful animal on earth.

I left Jim with his prize and clambered up the bank to get my tackle organized. In an instant I, too, was in the stream; and, working pretty well side by side, we fished that 300-yard rapids for two solid hours.

At this early season of the year, the trout are not as wary as they become later, when the water falls low and clear. After their long winter fast, the trout are hungry and on the make. The water is rough and not too clear. Anything attractive in the tumbling water is likely to induce even an adult trout to make a strike. They inhabit the wildest water, partly to capture the Insects and minnows washed down in the current, partly also because those small creatures are helpless and easy prey in the broken water. But I think a good-sired trout likes to glory in his strength in that swift current. What an ordeal of strength it must be for a trout to maintain his position in that bullet-fast water, full of a thousand twists and turns of current. Not for an instant can the trout relax his muscular effort. If he did, he would be swept down stream a hundred yards in a few seconds. Yet, hour after hour, a big trout will rise and slash at his feed in one raging area few feet square.

In two hours, Jim had seven trout, the best one the first one, the 16-incher, I had five, one of them almost the mate to Jim’s.

But to make up for my failure to beat him, I had at least LOST the biggest one. And Jim had been right there to see it. As we waded down, level with each other, I had cast a long throw into a black eddy beside one of the big boulders. The fly had dragged through one of those little foam puddings. Something half the size of a cocker spaniel had humped up. I struck to set the hook. The small pool exploded. Up in the air leaped a dark, glistening trout of at least two pounds. It went around the boulder. And my line and leader, minus fly, sprang back through the air.

If you can’t CATCH the biggest trout – at least LOSE the biggest!

“Let’s break off, Jim,” I said, as I waded ashore to put on a fresh streamer fly. “How about some sandwiches?”

So Jim wound up his line and came ashore, too, and sat down on the rocks beside me.

He emptied his creel on to a flat stone and lined his seven beautiful trout out, according to seniority. I handed him my creel; and the 12 made a beautiful display.

“After lunch,” I stated, “we’ll fish the rapids half a mile below here and catch another dozen.”

“We’ll eat six for supper tonight at the hotel,” decreed Jim, leaning down on his elbow to sniff the sweet, strange smell of trout.

“Tomorrow,” I outlined, “we’ll fish these same two stretches of the stream. I don’t think we can do any better anywhere in Ontario.”

“I wonder,” sighed Jim, as I busied myself with my fly box, “I wonder how many years these same rapids have produced trout for anglers?”

A Bit of History

“Well, Jim,” I informed him, “I’ve got an old book at home called the ‘Sportsman’s Gazetteer’ by Charles Hallock, an American. It was published in 1877 – that’s 70 years ago. At the back of the book, he gives details and routes of where to go fishing all over America, including Canada. And in the Ontario section, he mentions and describes this very river. Hallock probably shed this very rapids.”

“Seventy years isn’t so much,” suggested Jim.

“But Muskoka was by then,” I cried, “a thoroughly opened up and exploited tourist region. Hallock speaks of Muskoka as a most popular sportsman’s region. He describes what he calls the Northern Lakes. Simcoe, Cochochong – that’s the way he spelled Couchiching – Muskoka and Rosseau. He gives the routes for getting there by train and boat and gives the names of the sporting good dealers and outfitters in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge.”

“We’ve been hoicking trout of here,” mused Jim, “a long time.”

“Hallock,” I said, “speaks of fishing the Nipigon. He describes how to get there and he calls Port Arthur ‘Prince Arthur’s Landing.'”

“The Nipigon!” cried Jim. Do you mean to say the Americans were going to the Nipigon in 1877! Why, I haven’t been there yet.”

“Aw, listen,” I protested. “I’ve got another old book at home by Charles Lanman, the private secretary of Daniel Webster. In 1842, a hundred and four years ago, Lanman made a tour of Lake Superior in a birch bark canoe and fished the Nipigon and wrote it up just about the way the railway tourist departments write it up today.”

“That,” said Jim, “sort of takes away from the adventure of being here. I hate to think of a whole century of sportsmen fishing this stream ahead of me. I like to feel like an adventurer…”

“Well, I like to marvel,” I submitted, “at the eternal bounty of wild nature. To think of this Muskoka river giving us a catch of trout like that…”

And we both centred our gaze on the broad white stone on which reposed, in artistic array, our 12 beautiful trout.

“I hear,” said Jim, “that the tourist invasion of Canada this season is going to be the biggest ever.”

“Canada, in pre-war years,” I advised, “used to average $300,000,000 a year from the American tourists. This year, I hear they expect $500,000,000.”

“That’s a lot of dough,” murmured Jim.

“Why,” I exclaimed, “it’s possibly our richest industry. I mean, it brings in all that cash. The cash is left here. And nothing is taken out of the country but a few snapshots!”

“And a few fish,” corrected Jim, lovingly smiling at the trout.

“The Yanks,” I pursued, “bring in $500,000,000 cash. They leave it here. Unlike the manufacturing industry, or the agricultural industry, nothing leaves the country. That is nothing of importance.”

“But,” pointed out Jim, “a lot of fish leave the water – for keeps!”

“Mmmmmm,” I mmmed.

“If $500,000,000 worth of Americans come up here this summer,” demanded Jim, “how much are the fish worth that these Americans take out of our waters?”

“They don’t all fish,” I pointed out.

“Okay, then say $250,000,000 worth of them do,” proposed Jimmie. “Now, what does that make our fish worth – to us?”

I looked at the white stone with the 12 trout.

“Would the Americans come up here,” demanded Jim, if we ran out of fish? Suppose we fished so hard ourselves and let the Americans fish so hard that we all got ahead of the fish and ran out of them?”

“Do you think that’s possible?” I asked, “when this one little river, described by Hallock 70 years ago, can still produce for us a catch like this?”

“Well, I think we Canadians should all worry about it,” submitted Jim.

“Nature is to prolific,” I assured him. “Nature can stage such a wonderful come back. I bet if an atomic bomb were to eliminate the human race at one fell swoop, nature would have this country back on a paying basis as far as nature is concerned – in 10 years. Boy, what a trout stream this would be in 10 years, if we could only eliminate the human factor!”

“That’s an idea,” breathed Jim slyly, again feasting his eyes on our trout.

“Here we are,” I expounded, “seated beside a beautiful trout stream. It has yielded us a lovely catch, despite all the years it has been fished. A few yards away, up the hill there, is our motor car, in which we can travel, almost as swift as thought, from the great city to this paradise. True, the wild creatures have mostly gone. The deer are gone. The ruffed grouse, the beaver, the otter. All the original Inhabitants of this country have been subdued and driven off by mankind. But what we want- the trout – are still here.”

“What lords of creation we humans are!” cried Jim.

A Trick of Nature

“The earth, and the fulness thereof, is ours!” I quoted. “We have learned how to rid the world of the things we don’t want, and to keep and maintain the things we do want. I think Canada’s $500,000,000 a year tourist business is safe. If the worst comes to the worst, we have learned how to grow fish in hatcheries. If, by any chance, we let too many tourists into the country, why, all we’ve got to do is spend a few millions of that annual $500,000,000 on new hatcheries, grow trout by the billion, pour them back into the streams, and there we are! Good for $500,000,000 a year indefinitely …!”

Jim gazed out over the lovely leaping water. He gazed at the trout on the stone.

“I don’t know,” he reflected slowly, “sometimes I think nature is bigger and more astonishing than we imagine. I think nature can and will play tricks on us that we don’t know she has in her bag of tricks. Just about the time we think we’ve got nature eating out of our hands, boom, she will…”

We both heard a loud report. Above the roar of the stream, it sounded like a shot. Up the hill. We both harked.

And, above the swish and rear of the stream, we heard another loud bang.

“Jim,” I scrambled to my feet, “that’s up by the car!”

“Hey!” cried Jim.

So we hastily gathered our gear and scrambled up the bank and along the bush road to the little car.

“What scoundrel…” I roared, “would do a thing like that!” Both our front tires were burst!

Both our beautiful new synthetic tires were not only flat, they had large holes ripped out of them.

I got down and examined them.

“Why, Jim,” I shouted, straightening up and looking angrily up and down the road and into the brush, “somebody has deliberately torn these tires… they’re chewed …”

Something stirred in the trees and we both looked up startled.

There sat two porcupines in neighboring trees, gazing down at us in that shoe-button, sap-headed, smirky expression porcupines use.

They looked pleased and a little startled.

“Jim,” I gasped, “the porkies chewed our tires …”

“What a depraved taste,” said Jim, reaching for a rock.

“But…but …” I cried outraged, “we’re miles from any help!”

Jim shook the trees and the porkies climbed as high as they could and then fell out and scuffled away into the underbrush.

“Imagine porkies,” I raged, “chewing tires…”

“Porkies,” said Jim, “will try anything once. Axe handles, privy seats, cardboard cartons, anything. I suppose these two porkies were a committee designated by the tribe to investigate the eating properties of our latest addition to Man’s conveniences.”

“Maybe it was the salt, off that dusty piece of road back near Bracebridge,” I suggested. “The highway department puts salt on the dusty roads…”

“Well…” smiled Jim, far away. “I was just saying nature has a few tricks up her sleeve…”

Now, it’s not easy to leave a touring car alone on a lonely bush road. You can’t lock it up. We had to cache all our tackle and other valuables in the woods, hoping the porkies wouldn’t find them and chew them up. Then we started to walk the six miles back to the nearest farm on the bush road.

There was nobody home at the farm but a couple of fierce dogs. We had to walk another two miles. We got the nearest village service station on the phone to try and get us two new tires. They said they would do their best as soon as they could leave the gasoline pump, which was very busy today. Maybe towards evening.

“You can contribute the cost of the two new tires,” explained Jim, “towards that $500,000,000 tourist income.”

So we walked the eight miles back, arriving late in the afternoon. And we fished the same rapids over again, with only three small trout that we threw back.

“I guess we’ve cleaned them out for the next 70 years,” said Jim, very gloomy.

And it grew cooler. And we went and sat in the car for fear of porkies eating our other tires. And the relief party arrived about an hour after dark.


Editor’s Notes: I actually have a colour image of this illustration, as seen at the top of the page. Most images were in colour after 1935, but my primary source (microfilm) does not show this. The microfilmed version is shown at the end.

Greg loved fly fishing, as can be seen in his descriptions in this story. He and Jim seem a little unconcerned about disappearing nature, but I suspect that is likely not true. Sportsmen (hunters and fishers) like them were some of the first conservationists as they realized that their sporting activities could not continue if all of the animals were killed or all of the fish caught. This brought about some of the first conservation organizations, like Ducks Unlimited.

A creel, is a type of basket used in fishing. The author Charles Hallock would go on to found the magazine Forest and Stream. Charles Lanman wrote many books about his exploration of America.

This Is It!

By Greg Clark, December 21, 1946

“How,” demanded Jimmie Frise,”is your Christmas spirit?”

“As good as the next fellow’s,” I replied guardedly.

“I mean,” expanded Jim,” “have you got the true spirit of Christmas? Or are you just one of those people who go along on the Christmas bandwagon because they can’t escape?”

“Jim!” I expostulated very shocked. “You shouldn’t say things like that. To vast numbers of people, Christmas is the most holy day of the year.”

“It certainly doesn’t look like it,” declared Jim. “It’s far from holy for what looks to me like about 99 per cent of the population. It’s the business peak of the year. More cash registers clang during the four weeks before Christmas than during any other four-month period of the year. More people are exhausted as the result of sheer acquisitiveness on Christmas Eve than on any other day of the year.”

“I know, I know,” I protested. “Anybody can see that we have made a carnival out of Christmas instead of a holiday. Holiday means holy day. But how else would you celebrate Christmas?”

“Well, millions among us DO regard Christmas as the most sacred day of the year, and act accordingly,” said Jimmie. “But millions more of us can’t hear the church bells because of the racket the kids are making in the living-room or because of the hustle and bustle in the kitchen while the turkey cooks….”

“I think,” I submitted, “that the great majority of those of us who look upon Christmas as a carnival rather than a holy day still have a consciousness deep in our hearts as to what it is all about. All this giving of gifts. All this gathering of the family all this feasting and merrymaking.”

“I doubt it,” muttered Jim.

“Look here,” I demanded, “what are you getting at? What is all this leading up to?”

“Well,” said Jim, in that sweet humble air he adopts when he is about to take us both for a ride, “as a matter of fact, I was just wondering if the good old Christmas spirit had affected you to the point that you might be willing to make a small sacrifice…”

“Of time?” I queried. “Or money?”

“Neither, really.” Assured Jim. “One of my nephews from the country – just a kid, he is – got the bright idea this Christmas of making a little money by selling Christmas trees off the farm. They’ve got a big swamp full of spruce and balsam, you remember?”

“That’s a good swamp,” I agreed. “Full of rabbits.”

“So,” went on Jim, “he came up to the city and rented a vacant lot, he and a couple of chums. And they’ve cut about 300 dandy little Christmas trees, and have brought them up by truck to this vacant lot. And these past three days, they’ve been selling like hot cakes.”

“Good for them,” I applauded. “I like to see the farm boys exhibiting a little initiative.”

“A Swell Idea!”

“Now here’s the point,” pursued Jim. “They had no idea business would be so brisk. So they want to go back down to the farm tonight and spend tomorrow cutting another couple of hundred Christmas trees. And my nephew asked me if I would be kind enough to stand guard at their vacant lot tomorrow.”

“Why, Jim,” I admired, “what a swell idea!”

“All we’d have to do,” hurried Jim, watching me narrowly, “would be to get on the job good and early and…”

“How early?” I cut in.

“Oh, 8 or 8.30,” supposed Jim. “Maybe even later. Nobody goes out buying Christmas trees first thing in the morning.”

“How about during the night?” I demanded. “Don’t they have to leave somebody on guard during the night? Isn’t there some danger of kids coming around during the night and snitching a few trees?”

“Aw, we could stroll around a couple of times before bed time,” said Jim. “And anyway, there will be a cop on the beat.”

“Jim,” I submitted warmly, “there is something about Christmas trees that appeals to everybody no matter how cold-hearted he may be. I never pass one of those vacant lots crammed with little spruces and balsams, brightening the drab streets of the city with their unexpected little forests, that I don’t slow down and envy the guys who are living there, even for a few hours or a few days, amid the charm and mystery of the woods, there in the heart of the city.”

“It’s the Christmas spirit,” enthused Jim, obviously relieved at my reception of his idea.

“Has your nephew got one of those little shacks on the vacant lot?” I inquired. “You know, a little shelter to…”

“Not yet,” explained Jim. “They’ve got a good big brazier we can sit at. It won’t be cold. They’re going to bring planks for a little shack when they come back with more trees tomorrow night.”

“Aw, well, it’s just for the one day,” I reasoned. “Jim, I think it’s a sweet idea. I’ll be very glad to help out your young nephew. Is it the one we met last winter, rabbit hunting?”

“The same boy,” assured Jim.

“A fine kid,” I said heartily. “I’m glad to see he’s got some get-up-and-go to him. When do they leave for the farm?”

“They’ve left already,” announced Jim. “I just got a telephone call to say they were leaving and asking if we could go out right away.”

“Jim,” I cried, “let’s go!”

On the Job

Personally, I have always envied shopkeepers, especially hardware store keepers and drug store keepers. Those are happy men. There they stand amid their mysterious treasure all heaped about them. Mysterious drawers, secret bins; and all about them piled up and heaped high, the riches of their merchandise. I pity all those who have to stand behind counters and dish out groceries and drygoods. Everything they’ve got is out in the open. The customer can see for himself. But in a hardware store or a drug store, there is a sense of the unknown, the hidden. Every request from a customer is a challenge. And you can see in the eye of the hardware man, for instance, that gleam as his mind darts across the past, his memory exploring, as he accepts the challenge and goes to work to find the thing requested. I am sorry no hardware man or druggist has ever encountered an emergency that required my assistance. Christmas trees, of course, come in the category of groceries or drygoods.

Jimmie and I drove hotly for the residential shopping street where young Lisha, his nephew, had rented the vacant lot. And when we parked in front of it, our hearts rose.

There was still a goodly supply of Christmas trees on hand, though you could see that a large number had been sold. Already half a dozen customers were standing or moving amid the trees, examining them and looking about impatiently for somebody to serve them. In the midst stood a good big brazier newly heaped with coke and sticks, and radiating heat waves on the frosty air.

We hurried to the job.

Each tree had a small price tag tied to it. Some were a mere 75 cents, most of them a dollar, with here and there a particularly choice specimen at $1.50. After a hasty look around, I realized that Jim’s nephew, young Lisha, had inherited some of the artistic sense his uncle had. The $1.50 trees were pure Christmas card types.

“Madame?” I greeted the first lady, who had a couple of kids with her.

“How much is this tree?” she inquired sharply.

I examined the tag, which was in full view. “That’s $1.50,” I informed her.

“A dollar fifty,” she cried shrilly, “for a little old tree? Why, that’s an outrage. Anybody could go and out down a simple little tree.”

“But look, lady,” I explained sweetly, in the best merchandising tradition, it had to be cut. It had to be brought in a truck from the country. This vacant lot had to be rented…”

“Oh,” she said. “So you want to argue, do you? Well, there’s lots of other Christmas trees around this district…”

And she marched out of the lot, her two kids glaring back at me indignantly.

I saw the two ladies Jim had first approached just leaving him with their shoulders squared.

The next lady I approached had a tree in her possession. She was dragging it out toward the brazier with the air of someone who had found a bargain hidden away at the back.

“This one,” she stated firmly, “has no price tag. How much is it?”

I examined the tree. It was a little beauty. A close-packed, dense spruce, its branches standing out briskly in all directions, its top tapered and gay and light is a feather. Obviously a $1.50 type.

“That’s the $1.50 line, lady,” I announced.

“For a little bit of scrub like that!” she snapped. “Scrub that you could pick up along the roadside…”

“Sorry, madam,” I assured her. That’s a very exceptional Christmas tree…”

“It was a way in at the back, there,” she wheedled. “Among the 50-cent ones.”

I went back in among the trees. I looked on the ground. Sure enough, I found it. A price tag, folded up as though some bargain hunting woman had pinched it off the tree. I opened it. It was $1.50.

But maybe the wind blew it off. I shouldn’t be so suspicious.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” I stood firm, “that’s our $1.50 line.”

“It’s an outrage,” she shrilled. “The government ought to forbid this racket. “It’s just a racket. A little bit of scrub like this, a dollar fifty!”

I said nothing. I looked over and saw Jim standing by the brazier warming his hands. His customers had departed.

“Look,” said the lady, changing her attitude.” Couldn’t you let me have this for a dollar? I’m just a poor widow. And my little children do so look forward to a Christmas tree…”

“Just the Salesman”

She didn’t look like a widow to me. She looked like a woman regularly accustomed to bulldozing and wheedling a man by turns.

“I’m just the salesman, lady,” I stated. “The price is a dollar fifty.”

“Do you deliver for that price?” she asked stiffly.

“No, ma’am,” I said. “F.O.B.”

“What does F.O.B. mean?” she snapped.

“It’s French for ‘you got to carry it,'” I explained.

“You keep it,” she said warningly, searching her purse. “My husband will call for it. after supper.”

She paid me the $1.50 and I wrote her name on a piece of paper and tied it prominently to the fine feathery tip of the tree.

Jim had dragged a box up to the brazier and was hunched over the fire.

“It’s a cold job, just standing around,” he sniffled.

“Make any sales?” I inquired.

“No, mine were all just shopping around,” he coughed.

The late afternoon sun had gone down behind the nearby buildings. The December wind eddied around us, wafting the scent of balsam and spruce and the fumes of the homegoing traffic to our crispy nostrils.

A few people paused in passing and looked in at our display, but thought better of it and hurried homeward.

“How late should we stay?” I inquired, from the lee side of the brazier.

“Well, I suppose,” huffed Jim, “we ought to stay until the stores close and the crowds go home.”

A man and wife turned purposefully into our lot, the lady leading.

As I was on my feet, I leaped to the sale.

“Aha, the old racket,” cried the husband jovially, full of the Santa Claus spirit. “How much are the trees? Thirty-five, fifty?”

“Are these all you’ve got?” asked the lady in a quiet, menacing voice.

“Just what you see,” I assured her politely.

“They look awfully skimpy to me,” she said, leaning back. “When I was a girl, Christmas trees were beautiful.”

“We have several varieties,” I explained, “spruce, balsam, but the spruce are the prettiest.”

She walked stiffly around. Her husband joined Jim at the brazier and they engaged in the hearty kind of conversation a city man uses on what he assumes to be a country man.

“This one,” I said, pulling a nice bunchy spruce out of the pile,” is the $1.50 line. These are special…”

“A dollar fifty!” laughed the lady lightly. “I should say it IS special! That’s nonsense. I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents for any Christmas tree. Why it’s absurd, a dollar fifty … George!”

A Cold World

Her husband came over smartly.

“This man,” she said, “has the nerve to ask a dollar fifty for this Christmas tree. Speak to him.”

George drew himself up and frowned at me.

“A dollar fifty,” he began slowly and loudly.

“Look,” I said, “I don’t own the trees. I am just a salesman. There are plenty more Christmas trees up the street.”

“Tell him who you are, George!” commanded the lady in a low voice.

“I don’t care who you are,” I said loudly. “The price of this tree is a dollar-fifty.”

“That’s the tree I want,” said the lady loudly too. “Give him 50 cents for it, George, and take it.”

George looked critically at the tree.

“Mabel,” he said, “that isn’t a Christmas tree. That’s just a piece of hedge. I want a Christmas tree that sort of…”

“We’ve been over and over that,” cried the lady angrily, “every Christmas for years.”

“I want a Christmas tree,” shouted George, “that you can see through. I want a filmy, sketchy Christmas tree, not one of these thick, stuffed looking…”

“Take this one!” warned the lady in a deep throaty voice.

George looked desperately around and laid hold of one of our 50-cent line, a poor little wispy, droopy balsam.

That’s a Christmas tree!” he grated, shoving his jaw close to his wife’s face. “That’s what WE had for a Christmas tree in MY home…”

The lady grabbed a branch and tried to snatch the tree from him.

They pulled and yanked and yelled at each other.

The lady suddenly let go and ran, stumbling out of the lot, and with fast-tapping feet turned into the home-going crowd along the street.

“Will you take it, sir?” I inquired politely.

He stood for a moment, then flung the little tree away from him.

“Aw, the heck with it!” he barked and strode out.

Jim hadn’t moved from the brazier.

“Jim,” I said, “how long should we stay here?”

“It’s pretty cold,” suggested Jim.

“It’s a cold world,” I agreed.

So we banked ashes on the brazier and put it in a safe place and went home, trusting to the goodness of heart and the Christmas spirit in everybody not to molest young Lisha’s trees.

And after supper, we went and bribed the old boy who cuts our grass in summer to take on the job for the morrow.


Editor’s Notes: $1.50 in 1946 is about $21.25 in 2019.

F.O.B. is a term that basically means that the seller is not responsible for shipping.

What Luck!

October 5, 1946

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén